JOHN Coventry admits he is currently enduring one of his most difficult times as manager of East Thurrock United.

The Rocks boss, who celebrates 11 years in the job next week, watched his side lose 3-2 against Whitehawk in the FA Cup second qualifying round on Saturday.

It was East Thurrock’s ninth loss in 11 matches so far this season, with Whitehawk - of the Isthmian Premier League - winning at Rookery Hill in the competition for the second time in three seasons.

Coventry says he will continue to try to resolve Rocks’ troubles, but accepts this period is a trying one for himself and his team.

“We deserved to lose on Saturday,” said the Rocks chief. “Whitehawk were better than us and we took our league form into this cup competition, which was disappointing.

“It is up there with the most difficult times in charge,” he added. “I am not enjoying it. but every club and manager has times like this and this time it’s my turn.

“I can’t complain as we haven’t done badly in the 11 years I have been here. There has only been one other year in which we found it really hard and we had to beat Bognor Regis Town on the final day to stay up.

“This is a different challenge. We have had two full seasons in this league and this is the toughest so far. We were in it at a good time before but this is a real challenge for us. We have done well up to now but there are always better teams than us in this league and this season there are more than there were in the last two years.

“I said to the players after the Whitehawk game that there are not many more options left to me other than re-looking at the group and seeing if I can improve it.”

East Thurrock host Wealdstone this weekend before a run of fixtures that has taken on added significance.

Rocks play Weston-super-Mare, Hungerford Town and Truro City in three of the five games after this weekend - with those four sides occupying the final four positions in the National League South.

And Coventry says getting points from those matches will be key, with the Rookery Hill side’s boss accepting he is already looking at a much reduced mini-league in which his team can compete.

“These games do take on an added significance,” he said. “Our poor form means we have to create a separate league for ourselves.

“Last season the team that finished fourth from bottom didn’t have a great number of points and it will be similar for us this year, realistically.

“If we can win 12-15 of our remaining 32 matches I think we will be OK but we look a million miles from winning one at the moment.

“When things aren’t going well a lot seems to go against you. We brought Shaun Batt in and he is injured for a few weeks now, having come off on Saturday. You try different things and it doesn’t always work but I will keep trying.”